WASHINGTON, April 4, 2017 — To be able to speak as a king, means to be able to rule as a king.“Be ye men of valor,” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill told his countrymen in 1940, nine days after becoming the king’s first minister and shortly before the fall of France.
Churchill’s use of arcane language set him apart from his contemporaries, whether it was the shrieking, face-contorting Adolf Hitler or the placid and soothing President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The anachronistic Churchill spoke like a knight-errant on the verge of a great, ennobling quest to prove his and his nation’s chivalric virtues to a cynical and frightened world.
“Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is so precious as the gift of oratory,” said Churchill. “He who enjoys it wields a power more durable than that of a great king. He is an independent force in the world.”
The start of season seven of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” set a very dark stage, with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) brutally murdering Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) with his skull-crushing bludgeon, Lucille, a barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat.
But by season’s end last Sunday night, a new character, King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), proved a bright and illuminating force in this dark world of marauding thugs and ravenous zombies.
Like Churchill, Ezekiel’s flowery turns of phrase wield “a power more durable than that of a great king,” though he only plays one in a community called The Kingdom, where he holds court, appropriately, in a theater.
And because great kings appropriate animal symbols as proof of their imperial majesty (Richard the Lion Heart), standing constant guard at Ezekiel’s side is his snarling tiger Shiva, who King Ezekiel rescued from a moat at the zoo.
This season, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) has begged, cajoled and bartered in a frantic attempt to establish an alliance between the disparate communities paying tribute to Negan’s ruthless gang The Saviors.
King Ezekiel’s initial resistance to Rick’s call for all-out war against The Saviors gives way as more members of The Kingdom fall victim to Negan’s violence.
When he realizes that war is unavoidable, King Ezekiel feels compelled to persuade Morgan Jones (Lennie James) – “all life is precious” – to join the crusade against Negan’s thugs:
“Do you seek to extinguish everything of who you were? You want the Saviors dead? Cease this folly. Accompany my regiment. The Saviors are a dragon with many heads. Their numbers are legion. We must seek allies in this endeavor… Join us on this journey to create an alliance. Fight with us. And we shall defeat them, so that no one will suffer under their capricious malevolence ever again.”
Morgan reluctantly nods in agreement.
And like Shakespeare’s King Henry V, Ezekiel turns to his men,
“And we start once more for the fallen, for The Kingdom, for the glory of victory.”
The war against existential evil has begun.
And like Churchill, the chivalrous Ezekiel intends to fight the club-wielding dictator until he has “rid the earth of his shadow.”